Finishing Strong |

5 min read
londoneye / iStock

londoneye / iStock

December has arrived and you may feel like you can’t wait for a much-needed break. It may seem like the end of a long year, with what’s happening in the world and in your own life. But before you look ahead to the holidays or the New Year, it’s worth taking a look back, too, at goals you set last January. Reflecting on your resolutions or vision board, are there some forgotten promises you made to yourself? What would it mean to tackle some — or even one — of them and finish your year strong?

In a forthcoming book that I am co-writing about Black women and building resilience in the face of racism, we offer essential principles to live by and turn into regular practices. The concept of grit is one of the principles. Black women know grit well and we’ve observed it in our mothers, grandmothers, and aunties. We stand on the shoulders of those who, by word and deed, showed us the determination and stamina to finish what they started. As their daughters, we, in turn, stand on our convictions, empowered by passion and perseverance to get things done — whether that’s ushering our children successfully through to adulthood, operating our own business, or succeeding in a competitive career where few people look like us.

Take actress, entrepreneur and mental health advocate Taraji P. Henson as a model. After graduating from Howard University, she headed to L.A. with her young son in tow and just $750 in her purse with the goal of becoming an actress. She worked for years as a substitute teacher while auditioning for parts before landing the lead role of Yvette in the movie “Baby Boy.” That initial break was followed by her performances in “Hidden Figures” and TV’s “Empire” — a role in which she played the gritty character of former convict turned hip-hop mogul, Cookie Lyon. Several roles and acting awards later, she recently channeled her determination into creating the Boris L. Henson Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate stigma around mental illness.

A Black woman with grit is the one who speaks out at a meeting, giving voice to what others are thinking but may be too concerned about perception to say. She identifies goals and keeps her word — to herself and others — to achieve them. And then she rolls up her sleeves and digs in for the long haul. While Black women with grit are sometimes perceived as “angry,” or “aggressive,” we can honor our strength without being constrained by racist tropes intended to keep us silent and subservient. In fact, it is less stressful and more impactful when we demonstrate our fearlessness in ways that are clear and leave us smiling on the inside.

To finish 2023 strong, you can cultivate grit — the courage and resolve to achieve your goals. Rather than give up on a project or take no for an answer, you can rally your inner strength and tap into resources of support. Like a marathon runner who pushes through the most difficult part of the race — the last few miles — you can muster the determination to get across that finish line.

5 Ways to Cultivate Grit and Finish Strong

Focus. Identify an area of life that needs your attention. Is there an aspect that you’ve focused less on as you’ve been taking care of a family member or meeting work obligations? Or an area in which you feel unsatisfied or discontented? Recall what was important to you when you started the year and what you wanted to achieve, like changes in your work life, health, or a relationship. That could be a place to start. Find a way to shore up that area so you’re feeling balanced.

Decide what’s achievable. What can you do in the weeks that are left in the year? Triage what’s possible and what can wait. You may decide to table a particular goal for now. Part of having grit, and finishing strong, is being realistic about what you can accomplish once you target your energy and attention.

Encourage yourself. You may be tempted to beat yourself up for not meeting or getting farther along with your goals by now. Maybe you won’t hit your goals by December 31, but you are on your way. Resist judging yourself and simply notice where you are and what you’re excited about. If you focus on accepting yourself, flaws and all, unconditionally, you can turn your energy away from self-criticism and toward behaviors or ways of thinking that you can change. This approach helps to cultivate grit. If you’re working toward a goal, even if it’s not achieved by the end of the year, you’re still finishing strong because you’re taking steps and dedicating your time and energy toward your aspirations.

Turn a “no” into a “yes!” Achieving a goal may involve removing barriers in your path. If a manager or member of your community has blocked your plan by saying no, consider what you need to turn that into a yes. The power of persuasion? Rallying others to your support? Having grit means not accepting no for an answer when something is important to you, but persevering and figuring out what you need to do to move forward.

Find inspiration. To help you stay on track, consider someone who has achieved what you aspire to, or someone who operates by a code that resonates with you. It could be a cousin, colleague or an icon, here or with the ancestors. Read about Black women who can serve as role models. Use their example as inspiration and motivation to keep going. Examples include Michelle Obama; the astrophysicist in Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson; Serena Williams; Cicely Tyson; Queen Latifah; and Stacey Abrams.

For information about future events, please visit my website.

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